I’m sitting in my hotel room at my something’th MVP Summit, a little jet-lagged, missing my family and my church family on a day we normally would be Worshipping. It’s been a full weekend already. I got to visit with one good friend for dinner last night. Before that, I was at the funeral of another good friend delivering a short eulogy and leaving some “good” tears behind. I’ve done some praying, some Bible reading. Some crossword trying. But that book. The picture perfect day yesterday
… And it got me thinking
And, well, the thinking got me typing. And deleting. A lot of deleting. I’m trying to stay focused to a point here and get this out. You see, this post is about Tom Roush. But it’s not about Tom at all. It’s about me. But not just me. It’s about you. Yes – you. My friend from our #sqlFamily, and my “in Christ” family ended a 14 year (14 years!) battle with cancer (and a battle with the cancer-killing drugs that were just as bad – except in a different way) on January 28th of this year.
I’m young(ish) still. Yeah I, have some white whiskers if I let the “beard” grow out. The hairline ain’t what it used to be. But I’m hitting milestones. my youngest is 7, oldest is 16, been in the same career for about 20 years, I’ve held the same vehicle for longer than the new car loan for the first time and it’s about to turn 100,000 miles, I’ve held the hands of dying folks in fire and EMS world while saying “we’re doing the best we can”, and looked into the eyes of a lovesick dad while doing CPR on his 18-month-old for an entire ambulance ride. I’ve had my wedding ring for 16 years. I’ve been let down by people I trust – hard – and I’ve let down people I love – too often – I’m not “old” yet, but I guess I’m saying I’m not young still either.
All that is to say that I’ve not yet had to deliver a eulogy. Yes. I spoke at funerals of family members and I’ve been a pallbearer once. But I’ve not had to eulogize a friend before. And what a friend Tom was. The Bible assures me that Tom is in Heaven – if ever there were a man who lived out the principles of what it means to be a Christian, it was Tom. We had many chats about that, he went with full assurance of his salvation and a trust in the Christ who saves us sinners and the God who could protect a young man such as Tom with all of his misadventures early in life. He taught me much. And, darn it, he’s teaching me more through his absence. Not his fault, though, these lessons were there while he was with us. But for whatever fault and reason, I don’t do a good job of picking up on these things.
So even after some clever backspacing, the word count is 450. I suppose I ought to get to the point. You see Tom’s life has lessons for all of us. And I want to share a few of those lessons from the life I knew, and from the stories shared at his memorial service. You can listen. Maybe some will apply to you. I’m going to speak to them as they apply to me. I’m also going to share a few proactive things I’m going to start doing because of my friend Tom and my Savior Jesus and the intersections of the lessons each taught. But I promise you, I won’t beat you up about the Bible. If you want to know about what I believe, my e-mail is always there and I still answer my phone, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to Agent John Smith of the “IRS” lately or “Microsoft Support” calling about problems on my PCs, if I’d just give them my credit card…
Some Ways I (We?) Can Be Like Tom
(And as always… Sharing not because I’ve attained these ideals. Sharing because, well, I really haven’t. And that’s the sting of this post a bit…)
Tom chose joy. 14 years is longer than any of my biological children have been alive. It’s almost as long as I’ve been married. It’s a LONG time. He battled cancer for 14 years. Waited for tests. Waited for results. Changed medicines. Saw docs. Went to hospitals. Had burning pain from radiation treatments. For. 14. Years. Yet he chose joy. Each day. Purposefully. He didn’t begrudgingly choose to pretend to be joyful. He chose joy and opted to look at the blessings and reasons to be joyful. I fully believe it was the combination of being face to face with his mortality, the trust he had in Christ and the true Joy he sought each day that gave Tom his ability to exude joy. His smile wasn’t a fake “TV Smile”. It was a “I’m happy, I’m happy to see you, get over here and talk with me, friend” smile. Because he wore his joy on the inside. I bet. I KNOW. There were days that he didn’t feel like putting on joy. Yet. He put it on anyway. And focused on that. (Romans 15:13 says – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ) Deliberately, on a daily basis, choose joy. There are so many things to grumble about, people disappoint us all the time, the news is depressing, politicians and journalists breed controversy. Deliberately.Choose.Joy.
Pour Yourself Out
We have some number of years on this rock flying through space. Then our broken and corrupt bodies give it up, and our souls move to their permanent eternal home. While we’re here, we’re here with 6 billion other people each with their own challenges and things. While we have so many fellow travelers, it’s easy to be alone. It’s easy to get left behind the group or the pack. It’s easy to be forgotten about. In a lot of settings, there are sometimes two chain-reaction experiences that can happen. I think the #SQLFamily is a great example of a chain reaction of kindness, decency, concern for others – it started long ago before I even joined the “family”. Another type is apathy, anger, resentment, bitterness. On our farm, there are little narrow paths all through the fields. That’s from our sheep. They walk single file everywhere and are so predictable that they cut paths into the fields. We do that too.
We have a choice, though, about which path to take, which path to make and if we’re going to stay on the path or leave it. Tom’s legacy is one of pouring himself into other people. In the circles Tom was in, he inspired other people to do the same. Mentoring. Teaching. Listening. Loving. Tom’s legacy is beautiful because he poured himself into people. In big ways. In small ways like little encouraging reminders daily, or thoughtful, and kind of funny, gifts for people in a tough spot. There were no strangers to Tom. If you were a stranger, it is simply because you hadn’t met him yet. Invest in other people. Pour your life into the life of others. Listen with empathy. Care. Love.
Don’t Do Kindness Caveats
Tom had a diverse group of friends. He didn’t live in one bubble. We had quite a lot of things we quietly agreed on – but some we quietly disagreed on. Tom didn’t “pre-qualify” friendships. Now I think there is most certainly truth to a deep and abiding friendship being equally yoked in some fashion, but to be kind, to do life with others, to love and to still have friends to invest in? Who cares how they voted. Who cares what makes them tick. Tom didn’t have a survey to fill out to have him care about you or do kindness to you or give you the shirt off of his back. People.. People are people, don’t prequalify acts of kindness only to your tribe. Get out. Realize that tribes are just groups. Groups of human people.
Tom loved teaching. He loved sharing. I’ve actually forgotten how many of these MVP Summits I’ve been to, and it’s surreal being here knowing about the people who aren’t. People like Tom. If ever there was an MVP in terms of compassion for teaching, care for others, giving back, etc. – that was Tom. Tom didn’t just pour himself out on people personally… He taught them. He mentored and coached people. In one blog post on his professional blog he wrote:
“Oh, and if you’re still in the industry when you find that first little gray hair of your own sprouting, and you see a wide eyed up and coming DBA looking at you as if you’re the fount of all knowledge, shyly asking some advice on something, just to say they heard it from you, remember what it was like when you were thirsty for all that knowledge, and treat that request with the respect and humility it deserves, because once that happens, it’s definitely time to give back to the community that helped make you who you are.”
Take the time to look for the person looking for you. Say Hi. Teach. Mentor. Share. Bring up. Life is a cooperative game. We all win when we all help.
On Family & Time
You know. All of our days are numbered. There is an expiration stamp on each of our bodies. We have no clue when that is. Tom had the blessing of knowing that his expiration was most likely closer than ours through his disease. He had the “benefit” of knowing that each wake-up, sunset, moonrise, laugh from a kid or Cindy, could be the last. But that’s true of all of us. I see it in my small town with fatal car accidents in one stretch of highway. Or freak accidents. Rarely is a person “ready” to die. “Not today.. I have a pretty busy schedule, can you come back in about 7.25 weeks and ping me again to see how I’m looking? Maybe Q3?”, doesn’t work.
Tom knew. And he invested. And made memories. He wrote down his memories on his personal blog. He chose joy. He made friends. He loved. Cindy gave a beautiful eulogy for her dear husband. She knew how he felt about her. Because he told her each day. His kids knew, because he told them. His friends knew because he made it abundantly clear.
Accolades, bank accounts, wealth, success, pats on the back – all of those are okay things in their right places. But this life thing. It’s really about relationships first and foremost. To the Christian, it’s the vertical relationship first – communion with the God who created this world and us and wrote 66 love letters to us. For all of us, though, it’s the people placed into our paths. First at our homes, then in our pathway. Tom got this. And he lived a purposeful, invested life-giving himself to those placed into his life for whatever reason they were placed into his life.
I’m trying here. By having employees and saying “no” a bit more, I’m enjoying time with my kids and wife that I robbed them of earlier in life when I was all career. I’m cracking my Bible open more and getting back to my first love. I need to show the people in my life that they matter to me. Take time. There is more of it than you think. You waste more of it than you realize. And what matters are the human beings walking around on your path.
Finally – Be Kind
Tom had a saying – “You never know what someone is going through, so be kind”. It’s easy to argue about whatever the folks on the TV are arguing about. And it’s even easier when we live in a social media age to wade into a Facebook post and start spewing arguments. And the anonymity of that turns it into this shouting match thing with letters on a screen. We forget that these are people. Human people. That we interact with in person at times. Sometimes that stranger with the angry face in line just got the worst news of their life. People get -that- phone call all the time about a loved one who just died, about a diagnosis, about a relationship ending. We just don’t know. So, like choosing joy. Choose kindness. “You never know what someone is going through, so be kind”
What’s Mike Going to Do?
Well, I’m going to try and do the things I just mentioned above. I’m also going to find a way to weave Tom into my presentations at SQL events – his new book is now in paperback, and believe the links for it will be available soon – when I can buy them, I’m going to buy a bunch of copies and use those as a giveaway book in my presentations. The proceeds from the book will go to two scholarships – one for folks wanting to learn about SQL Server and the other for Nurses interested in learning more about palliative care for cancer patients.
I’m going to make time to make time. I’m going to try and wade into fewer discussions – I don’t really argue or fight much but I type fast, and defend positions – but sometimes it turns into an argument feel and alienates folks. I’ll share my faith a bit more fervently, any day can be someone’s last and I’d like the people in my path to be in the same eternity I’m in.
And I’m going to keep Cindy, Alyssa, Michael and Tom’s extended family in my thoughts and prayers.
The world lost a rare treasure in Tom. But he’s not dead, he’s just home and he left his broken earthly tent and exchanged it for a mansion in Heaven (2 Cor 5:1-10).
What about you. What’s your excuse?